You have milk; do you see the butter in the milk, do you see the yogurt in the milk? You do not, yet butter, yogurt and other products are extracts of milk and are made from milk itself.
In the same manner, life is one, however, in life there is the experience of matter, solidity, the body, annamaya kosha. There is the experience of ‘I am’, awareness and interaction, needs, requirements and desires. That is the experience of mind, manomaya kosha. In life there is strength, stamina, energy, vitality and dynamism. That is the expression of pranayama kosha. Vijnanamaya kosha is the deep subconscious field where samskaras and karmas coexist. Koshas are the integrated aspects of your nature.
It is not possible to see the koshas separately. You cannot say, “This is my pranamaya kosha, this is my vijnanamaya kosha, this is my manomaya kosha, this is my annamaya kosha.” It will be wrong to do that, just as one cannot separate butter from milk. So many things are in milk, yet you cannot see them until the milk is put through a process to extract the other products contained in it.
Life is like milk, and the milk has to be put through a process to extract the awareness and experience of annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya and anandamaya koshas. That process of extraction is known as sadhana. Without sadhana it is not possible to understand the koshas. They cannot be understood intellectually. Can you define what pranamaya kosha is? No, it is an integrated aspect of life. Can one define vijnanamaya kosha? No, it is an integrated aspect of life, which you can experience after you put yourself through a process of purification and extract the beauty that life has to offer. If you are not able to do that, do not look for the experience of manomaya kosha, for you will not be able to have that mental experience.
You can only be aware of your thoughts; you cannot manage your mind. Are you able to manage your manomaya kosha when it goes through a conflict or crisis? No, you are not. When you cannot manage your manomaya kosha, how do you expect to manage something which is beyond and more subtle than manomaya?
Hearing or reading about butter is not enough to extract butter from milk. Without sadhana, without putting the milk through a process of churning, it is not possible to extract the products contained in the milk.
—8 February 2015, Ganga Darshan, Munger